I’m just old enough to have been born when there were only 48 United States, and the world I was born into is not the world I live in today. Society is changing—too fast for some of us, not fast enough for others—and things that were once taboo, hidden behind locked doors and spoken of only in hushed whispers, are now displayed in public and are part of our common discourse.
The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is one of those changes, and when editor Neil Plakcy asked me to write a story for Active Duty, an anthology of erotic stories about the repeal’s impact on the military, I knew I wanted to be a part of his project because of the subject.
But I also wanted to work with Neil again. I’ve sold more than 1,000 short stories during the 35-plus years I’ve been writing, and in all that time I’ve only met a handful of editors, Neil among them. We met at Left Coast Crime, a convention for readers and writers of mystery fiction, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2011. We had a long discussion about writing short fiction, and I came away with an understanding of and appreciation for his editorial tastes.
Since then, Neil has included my stories in several of his anthologies, and I must say that every one of those stories is better for his editorial guidance and the judicious use of his red pen.
“Soaring,” my contribution to Active Duty, is the story of an Air Force captain near the end of his career who turns his back on the love of his life rather than risk losing his military pension. Then the repeal of DADT turns his life upside down, and the story begins and ends on the most important day of his life.
Here’s how Soaring begins:
As I stared in the mirror, I adjusted my tie and straightened my uniform jacket, marveling at how much the world had changed during my years in the Air Force. Less than a year earlier I could not admit, nor could anyone ask about, my sexual orientation. Less than a year earlier I could not have married Scott and kept my commission. Less than a year earlier I could not have imagined a church filled with people about to share the moment in which Scott and I vowed eternal union.
We first met at a reception hosted by the local country club in which members wined and dined newly transferred officers, and the socially connected locals patted themselves on the back for supporting the troops. As a captain, I’d been obligated to attend and regale the attendees with heroic tales of my recent tour of duty overseas in which I’d flown several combat missions as a jet pilot but had seen far less action than the grunts on the ground. When it became obvious that I was single, I found myself fending off the attentions of several matronly women who felt certain I would be interested in their unmarried daughters.
I finally ducked into the men’s room to distance myself from their attentions and have a few minutes to gather my thoughts. Even there I wasn’t alone. Scott—an attractive man in his mid-30s to whom I had been introduced at some point earlier in the evening—stood at the sink washing his hands. When he glanced in the mirror and saw me, he said, “I see the old biddies are circling you like a pack of wolves, trying to interest you in their homely and oft-divorced daughters. You don’t stand a chance, Captain Hunter.”
I saw that he wasn’t wearing a ring. “How do you deal with it?”
“Some of them have been after me for years.” He winked. “But I’m not interested in women.”
Before I could respond, he stepped from the restroom and left me staring at the slowly closing door.
Scott had disappeared from the reception by the time I exited the men’s room and once again attracted the circling pack of matrons. I survived the rest of the evening by repeatedly assuring the women that my duties kept me far too busy to become involved with anyone, but still they foisted off their daughters’ names and phone numbers. I graciously tucked each business card and scrap of paper into my pocket, but discarded them all once I returned to my quarters on base because none contained the one phone number in which I was most interested.
Learn more about Michael Bracken at CrimeFictionWriter.com
These fierce stories of love on the front lines grab and hold readers’ attention as they travel the world with these soldier on Active Duty. In the wake of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act getting repealed, Neil Plakcy brings the two issues together into heart-pounding vignettes of men in action who put their lives on the line to protect and serve. The heat of battle only amps up the level of excitement knowing that this tryst might be the last. These heroic hunks fight for love and honor and will have readers begging for their next debriefing!
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